Doing Development Education: ideas and resources – a starter guide

Asking questions about conflict displacement the EU's responsibility to the refugee crisis  overseas aid and its role in the world (un)sustainable development fair and unfair trade child labour tackling waste and overconsumption promoting women's rights building humans rights past successes like ending Apartheid in South Africa solutions, not just problems

Many readers and educators have regularly asked us for an accessible and quickly usable introduction to development education (DE) with ideas and activities that can be immediately used. This section has been designed with just that in mind. It includes:

  • a brief description of development education
  • a set of starter activities for different age groups and contexts
  • some ideas for using different types of resources.

From the outset, ‘resources’ are everywhere. Think of clothes, food, shoes, building equipment, mobile phones, billboards and the transport we use. This guide takes this broad approach to ‘resources’ as a platform for learning about the world during the era of the goals for sustainable development.

This section is designed for use by everyone whether working with adults or youth, in formal or non-formal education, in public education, campaigning and information provision.

Educational strategies complemented by this guide

A range of educational strategies are complimentary to the aims of this introductory guide to DE, as detailed below.

In addition, the Strategy for Education on Sustainable Development in Ireland 2014-2020 cuts across all education sectors and contains thematic areas in which DE has been activeily working within for over two decades. Development educators were also actively involved in the development of the strategy in recent years, including

Primary and Post-Primary education

Building deep links to literacy and numeracy developments are at the heart of the activities in this guide which seek to make complex issues engaging and relevant for students in their own lives through a range of suggested teaching styles and problem solving situations. Teachers are invited to build on these activities and to integrate them into lesson plans already developed which make links with oral speaking, listening and responding, social and cultural literacy, group discussion and interaction.

Central to the development education workshops is to foster an enjoyment of reading and positive attitudes towards the numbers and statistics that underpin world poverty, justice and human rights issues. For more info see the Department for Education and Skill’s Literacy and Numeracy Strategy 2011-2020.

Youth Work

This guide complements the National Youth Strategy (forthcoming 2015) which places the learner at the centre of a participative learning process. In particular:

‘Young people are socially included, environmentally aware, their equality and rights upheld, their diversity celebrated and are empowered to be active global citizens

Young people’s autonomy is supported, their active citizenship fostered, and have a strong voice through political, social and civic engagement.’

These aims are central to the purpose and character of development education in terms of ‘the what’ of the issues. ‘the why’ in terms of personal and social development and the ‘how to’ engage young people as active participants in their own learning.

Adult and Community Education

The community education approach taken in this guide to DE supports the White Paper on Adult Education (2000) which is an interactive and challenging process, not only in terms of its content but also in terms of its methodologies and decision-making processes.

Participatory and mixed active learning methodologies are infused with learning and reflections on development issues throughout.

A note about this guide: inevitably, it has not been possible to include all relevant development education ideas and activities in this guide. We intend to develop it further in the coming months and to add in a variety of other materials, resources, ideas and arguments. In this context, we would particularly welcome comments, feedback and suggestions.


This guide was developed by Tony Daly, Ciara Regan and Colm Regan with many thanks to the following organisations and people for sharing ideas, comments and permission to make publications available in whole or in part.

We would like to acknowledge and thank all those whose materials, cartoons, articles, photos and graphics appear throughout the section and also across the linked pages of the site itself:

Deirdre Hogan (Ubuntu Network: Teacher Education for Sustainable Development), Tony Murphy and Fiona King (National College of Art and Design), Gerry Jeffers (Ubuntu Network: Teacher Education for Sustainable Development), Patsy Toland (Gorta Self Help Africa), Louise Robinson (Reading International Solidarity Centre), Valerie Duffy (National Youth Council of Ireland), Global Dimensions and Think Global: the Development Education Association (UK), Angela Rickard (Department of Education, NUI Maynooth) and attendees at the discussion event at NUI Maynooth on development education and film on 11 November 2014.